I could not find any information in the HNS about these particular bugs (and they actually are a bug - one of the 4500 true bugs found) so we began researching elsewhere. Initially we thought they were Stink Bugs but quickly learned otherwise. My dear mother in law was joking around with my DS and DH and bravely picked one up to prove that they didn't let off a stink when "harrassed". I, on the other hand, took a safer route and came inside and found a basic field guide. Peterson First Guides - Insects. This book is not terribly detailed and certainly not enough information for most insect identifications but we were lucky and right on pages 36 & 37 we found exactly what we needed - Squash Bugs.
http://www.vegedge.umn.edu/vegpest/cucs/squabug.htm here is a great website about squash bugs. It gives all of the basic information we needed.
It CERTAINLY explained why our squash plants are wilted and dying. The website details EXACTLY what was happening to our squash plants and I found these pests purely on accident. I went out to water my DH's squash plants for him and suddenly these black bugs were crawling everywhere! Well - of course I yelled for the kids to bring me bug jars! Ha! Ha! My DH says, "Most moms would yell for a fly swatter or broom - you yell for bug jars!" And tell the children, "Catch one! Quickly!" Oh - the joys of being a CM homeschool mom!! :) I'm not boring!
So - once we have them contained - we bid a good night and awaken this morning with a nature study on our table :).
The children get out the magnifying glass and begin observing and sketching these insects. As they sketch - I casually provide them with information I found from the website above and information from the field guide above. The children's nature journals were not just about the squash bug but also the differences between arachnids and insects that they've been learning about (another post lol). Their journal entries turned out rather nice:
Chance did 2 pages. On one page he shows the Squash Bug on squash and on the 2nd its a closer look at the bug with the triangular "sheild" they have that protects their wings.
Briana's nature journal page. She also remembered they had a protective shield.
The bad part is these squash bugs are agricultural pests and the reason for our squash plants demise. They suck the nutrients from the plant foliage (and fruit later in the summer). This causes the plants to wilt and turn black because the bugs are taking all of the plants' water and nutrients. Here is the damage to our squash plants.
The amazing thing happens when I go to release them back outside. First - I'm unsure what to do because they are KILLING my squash. But - as usual - my son reminds me of his favorite "Hurt No Living Thing" poem so he says to let them in the yard and "take care of them in the morning before he has to see it." lol. I'm thinking - sevin dust TONIGHT. Horrible, I know. But as I take them outside, I decide to see if I can get some better pictures of them (before I sevin dust them) and WOW! I was able to catch a female adult laying eggs right then.
Don't you just LOVE - LOVE when your nature studies seem to fall in place? It gives me such a joy and feeling of our Lord watching over me and nodding in approval of the children's studies. It feels so natural and warm!
Once we saw this - we decided to turn over some more squash leaves and WOW again- we're swimming in the eggs!
The next thing we saw were TINY little white bugs. I thought - maybe aphids? Then my dear 6 year old son says, "Maybe its the babies- what are they called again, mom? NNY--" And I shouted, "NYMPHS! Goodness, I bet you're right." Then I ran inside and sure enough - they were the squash bug nymphs!! Another amazing AND natural part of the lesson - the next stage of their life cycle after eggs is the nymphs! Yeah for a vocabulary word learned through nature study the natural way!!!
Although the excitement over our finds were balanced with a GOODNESS we have a mess of pests here - it was a GREAT OUTDOOR HOUR CHALLENGE. As usual!!!! Here are some pictures of the eggs we found and more close ups of the Squash Bugs as they suck my squash dry! :)